Low-Income Students Are Increasingly Filing Financial Aid Forms Too Late

March 15, 2019, 1:11 PM UTC

Many low-income students are hurting their chances to get financial aid because they file the federal form too late, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A new study from CampusLogic, which makes software for schools to manage financial aid, reviewed 2.4 million filings of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form. Of those, 30% from students from households with incomes in the lowest fifth submitted their forms after March 1, 2018. But two-thirds of students from households in the highest fifth economically had their forms in by February 1, 2018.

The FAFSA is critical, as it sets how much federal aid a student will get and also how much many states and colleges will offer, according to Consumer Reports. That month can mean a lot. Financial aid is frequently awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Some sources of aid, whether state or colleges, have hard application deadlines in January or February. Once passed, the funds are no longer available, even if a student qualified.

One problem may have been the form itself. Long and detailed, it has typically required a desktop computer to fill out in the past and households with smartphones as their only computers frequently tend to be low-income, black, or Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau.

But a new FAFSA smartphone app is getting good reviews and should make the process easier, reported the New York Times.